My wife and I just watched the highly acclaimed HBO miniseries, Chernobyl. In the very first minutes, she paused the show to point out tiny details that showed how accurately the producers captured life in Soviet times. For instance, the scientist at the center of the story takes out his trash in a bucket with no plastic bag inside, because plastic bags cost money.
There was, of course, some Hollywood silliness. I also suspect that the more apocalyptic aspects of the show were exaggerated. Perhaps the writers wanted to scare people away from nuclear power…
But this is the really interesting thing about the story. It’s really not anti-nuclear power at all—it’s anti-Soviet. Or more precisely, it’s anti-totalitarian and anti-secret police. This is a very important message that’s conveyed powerfully by the show.
Nuclear power wasn’t the problem. Even the design quirk that resulted in the Chernobyl explosion wasn’t really the issue. If the plant operators had known about that quirk, the explosion wouldn’t have happened.
The real cause of the explosion were the Soviets’ secrets and lies.
When reports started circulating last week that there might have been another Chernobyl, the silence from the Russian authorities made me want to scream.
Didn’t they learn anything?!
As the protagonist says at the beginning of Chernobyl:
“Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.”
You can find more great quotes here.
But, given that is was an experimental nuclear weapon that blew up, not a commercial power plant, I have to admit that other governments would not likely have been any quicker to fess up. That the Russians did admit the truth and have now ordered an evacuation of the region gives me some small hope for the future.
Humanitarian concerns aside, I find this is all worth pondering, given my speculative investments in uranium. Another Chernobyl accident would have prompted me to exit those trades immediately. As the reality was nothing of the sort, and uranium prices have not fallen in response, I remain long.
As for the show, I do recommend Chernobyl to any who have not seen it.
Wednesday, August 14, 10:34am, EDT, 2019